The morning was so calm. My son, Luke, and I sat at the kitchen table and watched the school bus slow down, wait, and then move off again. The grocery list was still up on the refrigerator as if it was just another damn day and I wouldn’t combust.
I drove Luke to school knowing he’d be late, but to hell with them. I was the real teacher and look where that had gotten Luke. I didn’t probe him. It had been my test, not his.
At two a.m. the night before, I had seen Luke’s flaming face hovering above me with hysteria. A sea of pain gushed open inside and absorbed me. All signs had been blinking on and off for years, but I’d refused to see them. Luke was burning away, just like me. His story was like a chain that swung back at me. He was terrorized and wasted on something that had started out so small and innocent, like that kitty we found stranded in a back alley once. But over the isolated, demented hours of night, that fun, little high had become a loose tiger that couldn’t be contained. I sat up with him through the explosive hours pushing chamomile tea, rocking him and talking softly to bring him back, while through the words my own fears ignited inside me like some acid-green aura. I was flammable and the explosives were on my ass, closing in, and now my boy was going down as well.